Week 52

The night quietened down for just a moment so that the group could to catch the count, before growing as one voice.
Streamers rained from above as party horns tooted, hugs were shared, and songs were sung.
They welcomed in the New Year and congratulated each other on surviving the last, promising to make this one better.
But promises made at midnight can be hard to keep in the morning light.

Week 51

Many think they never existed, some think they were hunted into extinction, but few know that they were forced into hiding.
Distinguishable by their smooth skin and shiny hair, they emit positivity and happiness like bubbles into the air. Bright eyes, big smiles, and an endless supply of support and friendship, they now live among us, bringing rainbows into grey lives.
Just as werewolves are now considered a myth, so are the unicorns. And while a werewolf still turns at the full moon, the unicorns are always their real selves on the inside, but will only ever show their true form amongst their own kind.
There are more in the world than you may realise. They are that comforting smile, that surprise helper, that person who is always there when you need them.
But ask them if they’re a unicorn? They will simply laugh, and make a joke. They cannot admit to what they are. Not yet at least. Not while the darkness still surrounds us.
For now, they are the light in the shadows, the beauty in an otherwise dreary day. And for now, that’s okay.

Week 50

The fire fairy danced across taste buds and tickled the air until the mouth gasped for more. She continued to twirl on her tiptoes even as fresh air flooded her space.
The addition of water only quickened her steps, and she sent flickers of flames down the back of the throat.
Just as she grew tired and prepared to take her leave, a new rush of heat enveloped her and renewed her energy. The fire fairy spread her wings, laughed out loud, and began to dance again.

Week 49

Looking at her reflection, all Samantha could see were her flaws.
Her attention was immediately drawn to the lines and shadows beneath her eyes, but they soon followed to the creases around her mouth and across her brow.
Any bump or discolouration stood out next. The shape of her jaw line, the lack of chin, the size of her ears… Samantha could glance at herself for just a moment and see all of these imperfections at once, or stare for an hour and drown in a sense of worthlessness.
But not today.
It took a few minutes, but Samantha began to tick off the things about herself that she actually kind of liked.
Her lips: she loved the shape and natural colour. She hardly ever wore lipstick, but when she did, it was always in bright and bold colours that drew the attention towards her pout.
Next were her eyebrows: shaped yesterday at the salon, they arched and curved in perfect symmetry. Gorgeous.
Trying to look past the darkness below, Samantha instead focused on her eyes: honey-brown with flecks of gold, they seemed to brighten with every compliment she paid herself.
Her cheekbones weren’t bad either, she decided. And with this she began to smile. With the lift of the corner of her lips came a radiance of confidence. Even as the lines around her mouth wrinkled, Samantha hardly registered them as a flaw.
Not today, anyway.
Today, she was choosing to be beautiful. Today Samantha was choosing to be happy.

Week 48

Glistening silver streaks weaved around and around like a sparkly snake climbing towards the heavens, while beads of blue and purple were hung loosely amongst the green spikes with clear baubles perched delicately on its tips.
Christmas had arrived at the Williams household, but not everyone was there to celebrate the festive season.
A small ceremony was taking place in the backyard where the children openly wept and the adults’ faces grew red trying to keep their tears hidden.
A small box was placed into the ground with a lone sunflower dropped on top. A short karakia was spoken, the first of the dirt shifted, and a final farewell said.
The twinkling of stars were hidden above the glow of fairy lights as the family eventually moved back inside.
A small dish on the kitchen floor sat empty, but no one made to remove it. Instead they tried to settle into their usual places around the dining table and on the couch. Few words were spoken, none of meaning. But arms of comfort were freely available and taken advantage of.
Finally the children were ushered to bed and the adults had a moment to themselves. Presents were brought out of hiding places, wrapped, and placed under the tree, but one was taken away.
A small and poorly wrapped parcel that jingled when it was moved was put high on a shelf, not to be forgotten, but for now unrequired.

Week 46

They had joked about this. There were always little comments about it happening, but never to be taken seriously.
And yet here they were, side by side, the nerves prickling through to their fingertips.
A side glance to the left, a nod in return. Were they ready?
“Let’s do this,” she said. “Let’s adopt the tabby one”.

Week 45

Guy Fawkes was well and truly over, but that didn’t stop the neighbours carrying on their celebrations, more than a week later. Bangs and screaming explosions sounded from over the fence, sending the tough Rottweiler to cower beneath the bed with the cats.
Several requests from young families on the street had been made to cease fireworks after 11pm, but the alpha-males next door continued to light them into the wee hours of the morning.
Hearing the familiar whirr and flash of light as the clock ticked past 2am on a Monday morning was the final straw for William Burrows.
He apologised to the pets and retrieved his PT-80 from the safe.
The neighbours were relieved when it seemed the boys had run out of supplies a short time later, and most had finally fallen asleep when a car left the property with its lights off.
The next day, William was seen finishing his morning walk without his dog. He explained to Margaret, at the end of the street, that the poor thing was still hiding under the bed after the latest night of fireworks. She nodded sympathetically and told him that her cat still hadn’t returned home. He promised to look out for it.
A quiet night followed, and the street’s residents smiled when a moving van arrived at the boys’ house. The neighbours joked about throwing a street party to celebrate their leaving.
Several times over the next week friends and the occasional family member turned up only to peer through the windows and leave confused. Only one person knocked on William’s door. The father of one of the boys asked about the moving van and whether William could remember the company. He shrugged and said he didn’t recall, was thanked, then left alone.
It was nearly a month before the landlord, complaining about unpaid rent, discovered the empty house. New tenants were found quickly, and to the neighbourhood’s relief, they were a quiet couple, not fond of fireworks.

Week 44

When did things change?
It seems like just the other day we were all hanging out, dancing in town, and dealing with dramas that the opposite sex brings.
But now I can’t remember how long your hair is, or whether you have freckles on your face. We spent every day together for years, but now… how long has it been? Months?
No, years.
The changes had probably already begun then. I didn’t know you were in town, you didn’t know I was either. We managed to catch up and it was like old times, just with a few newer faces in the group. Plans for the future were being mapped, but nothing set. And I thought, wrongly assumed, that when it came for the next step, we’d be side by side. Or at least, aware of what the other was up to.
And so you go one way, and stay here. I still think of you as one of my best friends, but you’re not really. I certainly am not one of yours.
Is it the time? Or just the space that has shifted our friendship to the past?
If we ever end up in the same town again, maybe we’ll be friends again too. But for now, let’s just like each other’s photos on Facebook, just to show we’re still there.

Week 43

He’d heard she was a fighter, but Michael wasn’t immediately convinced.
She didn’t look like much, but he knew that some of the best fighters used their opponents strength against them, rather than their own, for.
He first of all eavesdropped on her conversation with another man. She joked about how often she’d beaten him up. The man laughed but it was clear his pride was hurt which confirmed her standing.
Michael used the uncomfortable moment that followed to introduce himself into her circle.
She noticed the brace on his arm and seemed to smile – did she know why he was here?
The conversation moved to another man describing his workout routine, and Michael noticed her eyes glaze over. Now was his opportunity.
He stepped sideways and crossed behind her to the lounge. Michael could feel her eyes on him as he picked up one of the controls, and before he’d even got to the two-player option, she was by his side with the second controller.
Game on.

Week 42

They’d waited until after the wedding to combine their families into one home; Sheryl, with her two daughters, and Mark, with his one. The girls all knew each other from school, but it was clear from the beginning that they would never be the best of friends.
While a pretty girl, Sheryl considered Mark’s daughter to be spoiled and entitled. Cindy had lost her mother at a young age and therefore had been doted on more than the average child.
Her own children, Geraldine and Rachel, had never known their father. They imagined him to be a Prince from a far away land, and while she had indulged this fantasy, she had been strict with all other aspects of their lives.
She was tough on home work, encouraged them to get involved in extra curriculum activities, and had banned boys from their home. Sheryl was keen to raise Cindy the same way.
Shortly after the move to their new home she told them that they would need to each do chores in order to earn pocket money. Mark wasn’t keen to have the girls work, joking that it was “hard labour”, but Sheryl convinced him that it would earn them some life experience, and likely bring the girls closer together.
It didn’t.
Instead, her daughters thought Cindy only put in half the effort that they did, and Sheryl tended to agree. Once she even caught Mark finishing Cindy’s chores!
Cindy had the worst attitude of any teenager she knew.
And it only got worse after Mark passed away. Car crash. On their one year anniversary.
Understandably, Cindy was devastated. Sheryl held it together for the family, and tried to continue on, but she found it harder and harder to relate to this young girl who locked herself away in her room.
When, at the end of the year, she heard there was going to be a Royal Ball, Sheryl saw it as an opportunity to finally unite her broken family, and bring Cindy out of her shell.
“There is to be a Royal Ball this autumn,” she announced at dinner. Her own girls grinned and started bouncing in their seats. They chatted over the top of each other about the rumours, and what sort of dress they should wear, and how to do their hair…
“However,” Sheryl interrupted them, “I have some conditions before I allow anyone to go.”
She emphasised the word ‘anyone’ and let her words hang in the air.
The bouncing stopped, and Cindy, who had simply continued eating at first, finally paused to look up.
Sheryl caught her eye before continuing. “We are to create a full list of chores, to get this house looking its best. I expect each member of this family to complete their chores if they expect to go.”
“But mum!” Geraldine protested. “Everyone over 16 is invited. We have to be there. It’s unfair if we’re not, and-“
Sheryl held up on finger to stop her talking and nodded. “If all the chores are completed, then there will be no reason for you not to go.”
Sheryl looked around the table to see that they each received the message and when she was satisfied, she retired for the night, leaving the girls to collect their thoughts, and their plates.
The days rushed by quickly, and while Sheryl saw great enthusiasm from her daughters regarding the approaching autumn celebration, she saw no such interest from Cindy.
When the big day finally arrived, there was only one person that still had chores remaining. Sheryl saw her watching from the kitchen window as the rest of them climbed into the car, heading to the Royal Ball, while Cindy stayed behind.
Geraldine and Rachel looked beautiful in their gowns. They shone more radiant than most as they danced throughout the night. Sheryl was so pleased that even though she couldn’t do any more with Cindy, at least she had two wonderful daughters instead.
She was not so pleased, however, when she saw a girl who looked a lot like Cindy enter the Royal Ball, shortly before midnight.
The dress was like silver, her hair like silk ribbons. Sheryl was not sure where Cindy had obtained help to get her looking so… so… stunning… or how she had come to be at the Royal Ball, but rules are rules, and she was determined to send her home again.
As Sheryl attempted to cross the dance floor through twirling couples and giggling teenagers, someone else got to Cindy first.
Handsome, rich, and powerful, the young man had been nicknamed Charming, and Sheryl was not sure she liked the way the two flirted together so quickly.
They began to dance before Sheryl reached them, so she watched as closely as she could instead. Did Cindy know this Charming man before tonight? And just how did she get here?
Sheryl wanted to talk to this troubled step-daughter of hers tonight. She made a second attempt to cross the dance floor, but found the man without a dance partner when she saw him next. She scanned the room but could see no sign of Cindy.
Betrayed. Lied to. Disrespected. Sheryl felt these and more as she drove her loyal daughters home. She didn’t burden Geraldine or Rachel with the tale of Cindy’s deceit, instead she complimented them on her dancing and quizzed them on the boys they had danced with.
When they returned to the house she confirmed Cindy was in her bed and decided to deal with her in the morning. However, the opportunity never came.
The young man had knocked on their front door at first light, and it seemed Cindy, for a change, was attending to her morning chores, meaning that she was the only one up.
The two had chatted for some time before Sheryl awoke and found them cosy in the living room. Cindy already had her bags packed and stuck around only long enough to say her goodbyes to them all before running off into the sunset with her Charming.
While Sheryl had loved the girl’s father with all her heart, she felt she would always remember Cinderella as her wicked step-daughter.